Sudan Rallies Could Spread to Darfur

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Regional powers stick with Bashir as Sudan protests mount Saturday January 12 2019 Sudanese President Omar al Bashir

Protests also broke out Sunday in the western war-torn region of Darfur, after calls for rallies there by the Sudanese Professionals' Association, which has spearheaded the demonstrations.

Video footage appearing to show worshippers chanting anti-government slogans inside a Khartoum mosque spread online on social media later Friday.

Police fired tear gas at demonstrators who took to the streets of El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and in Niyala, the capital of South Darfur state, witnesses said.

While also criticising the firing of tear gas at hospitals, the commission called on the government "to investigate this and bring the criminals to court".

Sudan's National Human Rights Commission condemned the killing of protesters "by bullets" and demanded an official investigation, in the first acknowledgement by a state body that live ammunition has been used.

The protests have since swiftly escalated into nationwide rallies widely seen as the biggest threat to Mr Bashir's rule in his three decades in power.

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At least 22 people have been killed during the protests, including two security personnel, according to the authorities.

Analysts say the challenge now for organizers is to get protesters onto the street in numbers.

Sudan is among countries with the highest death rates in traffic accidents, mainly due to careless driving, crumbling roads and poor vehicle scrapping system.

"But so far there hasn't been an escalation, they are persistent but they haven't risen in intensity in a significant way".

He has insisted that the protests are part of a foreign plot to undermine Sudan's "Islamic experiment" and blamed the country's worsening economic crisis on global sanctions.

Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported in several cities, including Khartoum, while the costs of foods and medicines have more than doubled.

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Officials have blamed the protests on "infiltrators" and said they are working to address economic problems.

In a joint statement on Tuesday last week, the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Canada condemned the violence and said Sudan's "actions and decisions over the coming weeks will have an impact on the engagement of our governments and others in the coming months and years", referring to ongoing efforts by the U.S. and UK to normalise relations with Sudan.

The US imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in October 2017.

Security forces have been accused by human rights groups of using live ammunition to break up demonstrations, as well as arresting protesters and opposition figures. It restricted Sudan from conducting global business and financial transactions.

He has also failed to unite or keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse nation, losing three quarters of Sudan's oil wealth when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011 following a referendum.

Sudan has dismissed their concerns as "biased" and has insisted it is "committed to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations".

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